ideas for the future · inspiration · slice of life · writer's notebook

Teaching Writing, Learning Writing

Like many of you who read this blog and participate in the weekly Slice of Life challenge, I’m thinking about the upcoming March SOL story challenge. This is the fourth time I’ll participating in the March SOLSC.  And I’m going to tell you a secret. During two of the last three month-long challenges, I haven’t met the write-every-day-for-31-days goal. I’ve come close, but I’ve missed a few days. Why? Because I got stuck, or ran out of steam, or, gasp, I just didn’t feel like writing.

Just like our students sometimes get stuck and run out of steam and -gulp- sometimes don’t feel like writing.

Writing motivation often comes down to ideas, inspiration, and energy. I decided to go in search of all three, before March 1st.

  • I’ve stepped up my notebook game. It goes everywhere with me these days.
    • When I have a thought, I write it down immediately, before it is gone.
    • When I read a line I love and find inspiring, I write it in the notebook.
    • I’m making plans and taking notes and jotting ideas there regularly.

Perhaps some concentrated mid-year notebook time could help our writers replenish their writing energy and bank of ideas.

Thinking about #SOL17 ideas in my notebook.
  • I’ve been snapping more photographs. Anything that catches my eye. The bowl full of artichoke leaves after the feast, the dog’s romp through the leaves on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the messy junk drawer. I’m storing them in an album on my phone labeled “SOL#17.”  You can bet some of these will turn into slices next month.

Maybe it’t time to take a class period to explore and document with iPads. Gathering images for ideas for future pieces could provide writers with new inspiration.

When I opened my junk drawer to clean it out, I snapped a photo and thought “I could write about this!”
  • I’m making more time for reading. And I’m reading like a writer as often as not. When I come across a line I love, I write it down- in my notebook, or in the Notes app on my phone.

We can remember to be intentional about pointing out writing we admire. We can wonder aloud about how we might try something similar in our own writing.

  • I’m rereading a few of my favorite pieces on my own blog, as well as articles and posts I saved in my Pocket app. Don’t have Pocket? Get it. It’s a terrific place to store pieces you come across on social media.

We can give our students time to look back through old pieces in their folders, and previous entries in their notebooks, teaching them how to mine those places for new ideas.

  • I’m  pulling out some of my favorite resources and books that have writing ideas and notebook tips, and flagging pages I might want to look at during the March SOLSC.

We can share old anchor charts and invite students to look back through them. If they have teacher created charts or notes from minilessons in their notebooks, we can encourage them to review those when they are stuck or looking for ideas.

Some of my favorite books with notebook tips and writing ideas.

I’m getting ready for the March SOLSC and I hope you are too. But more importantly, I’m walking the walk as a teacher of writers. I’m writing, thinking about writing, and making plans for my writing. And all the while, I’m learning to be a stronger teacher of writers.

18 thoughts on “Teaching Writing, Learning Writing

  1. I believe that this a great way to motivate persons to read. This is a good piece Lisa, because as an idea or thought comes to mind we can write it and remember to use it later. I believe that writing is very important and reading as well especially as teachers and students. Thank you for sharing your way of recording new pop up information because as I was reading, I was saying to myself that I am going to practice this type of method so to speak. I have a journal book that I bring with me everyday to school but I only record things that I need to get done day through out the day. But after reading this blog I am going to make use of my journal book. Thanks again Lisa.


  2. I’ve written about my junk drawer before. Great source for ideas. I also have all three books in your stack. Time to pull them out and get ready. Time to be brave and just jump right in.


  3. “I’m walking the walk as a teacher of writers. I’m writing, thinking about writing, and making plans for my writing.”

    This was a really inspiring post. In order to immerse yourself in writing you have to “walk the walk.” I love how you’re jotting down any lines you admire. I think as writers we might appreciate and love certain lines, but I wonder if that’s enough. Actually rewriting the line and going back to it seems like a more “active” way to read. These little things really help your reading and writing.

    best of luck on SOL story challenge,


  4. I was meant to read this blog post today. When I’ve been down on myself about how writing time in my classroom has been withering away. (And I won’t even mention my own lack of writing!) You’ve given me the inspiration to get my class back on track. Beginning March 1, we will breathe life into our notebooks. This weekend I’m digging back in to all of my favorite resources and getting ready to write! Thank you!


  5. I love this post for so many reasons (including the fact that I’m sort of in it!)–I love the honesty, and I also love the connections to teaching writing. We learn so much as teachers of writing by doing the writing. I’m setting up an album. What a great idea!


  6. I think that the “Slice of life “challenge is an interesting way to encourage writing since more writing will develop one’s writing skills. As educators, it is imperative that we practice what we preach while ensuring that we “use it so not to lose it”. Taking pictures for writing ideas is a great way to practice writing. This will help to expand the mind and to glean new ideas. This will build our bank of knowledge and aid in building new ones. Kudos to you Lisa. Great job!


  7. Love writing and while I do blog I never thought of keeping a notebook. I do jot down ideas into the memo part of my phone but they are few and far between. Got Pocket App – looks interesting….here’s to more writing (unseen glass of wine in hand!)


  8. As someone who tends to write about BIG ideas more often than not, I found this post helpful in steering me toward small moments and ideas. There are lots of good ideas to borrow and I will try to do that during the March challenge. The operative word here is TRY.


  9. This is such a thoughtful and honest post, Lisa. I have a feeling you’re going to complete it this year because you’ve been thinking deeply about what to do if/when you get stuck.

    The photographs are a great strategy. You know that saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, I think just letting a photograph drive one’s everyday writing is a beautiful way to jump-start one’s writing when they’re feeling stuck.


    1. i thought the same thing. sometimes all you need is an image to get your writing started. But be careful because it’s easy to become distracted with emails/socialmedia/texting while checking your cell phone for those pictures that are supposed to inspire and maybe even help you focus.



  10. What a helpful post, Lisa. I especially liked the way you shared your thinking about how your process applied to what we can do for students to give their writing an energy boost. Junk drawers are such a great source of writing ideas!


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